CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak waded into the furor surrounding Egypt’s grudge match with Algeria during his speech for the opening of the 2009/10 parliamentary session.
Egypt is in uproar over alleged attacks that took place in Khartoum after Algeria defeated Egypt 1-0 last Wednesday to qualify for next year’s World Cup. Egyptian fans attending the match in Sudan spoke of being attacked by Algerian fans after the defeat.
In his speech Mubarak said, “I want to say in clear words that the dignity of Egyptians is part of the dignity of Egypt . Egypt does not tolerate those who hurt the dignity of its sons.
“The welfare of our citizens abroad is the responsibility of the state. We don’t accept any violations and transgressions against them, he added.
Mubarak did, however, stop short of referring to Algeria directly by name and refused to be drawn into what he intends to do when those amongst the audience shouted out for a reaction.
“We don’t want to be drawn into impulsive reactions. I am agitated too, but I restrain myself, he responded.
In the aftermath of the match, angry Egyptians demonstrated outside the Algerian embassy in Zamalek but central security forces forced them back. Up until Saturday night police had cordoned the road leading to the embassy not allowing any cars through.
Mubarak – who met with Israeli President Shimon Peres Sunday – also lambasted Israel in his speech for what he termed their continued resistance to peace in the region, specifically their continued building of settlements in Jerusalem.
He said that Israel was “destroying the opportunity for peace, with its plans to populate Jerusalem with Jews and excavate around the Al-Aqsa mosque.Stop your actions in the West Bank and remove the blockade on the (Gaza) Strip. Enough with your stubbornness and manipulations – accept the calls for peace.
Egypt has recently spoken out against the Israeli decision to build 900 new housing units in the Gilo settlement in Jerusalem, a decision that the US has also criticized.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement that the decision to build more units is “provocative and deserves nothing but condemnation.
“Such behavior is deplorable amidst the international attention and intensified endeavors to overcome the current stalemate on which Israel insists to put itself and everyone, throughout intransigence in refusing to freeze the settlement activity on the territories it occupied since 1967, he added.
It was expected that Mubarak would discuss Gilo with Peres, who had previously waded into the issue, saying “there is no doubt that Gilo is under Israeli sovereignty . Gilo is part of Israel.
In his speech, Mubarak also sounded a warning to Iran, telling it to stay out of Arab affairs and stated that Egypt intended to defend itself against any acts it considered to be destabilizing.
On the economic front, Mubarak said that the government intended to present a bill to parliament for a third fiscal stimulus package to the tune of LE 10 billion. The financing should come from economic arms of the government and will target infrastructure projects.
Investment bank Beltone Financial issued a statement on the proposed bill, stating that the “government had included initially a second package of LE 8 billion in the fiscal year 2009/10 budget, adding a third package to ensure growth reached its projected level of 5-5.5 percent in the fiscal year.
However, Beltone predicted “growth to reach 5.1 percent in fiscal year 2009/10, with the state budget realizing a budget deficit of 9.1 percent, compared to the government projection of 8.4 percent.